Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Constant Shutter Speed On Your DSLR Movies

Using the right shutter speed, when shooting movies, is important to the look of your movie. A slower shutter speed will blur motion similar to what happens in photos and a fast shutter speed can result in really sharp frames but can make motion look a bit jittery. Technically I should be referring to shutter angle seeing as how we are talking about movies and this relates to film and how it is exposed. The recommended shutter angle is 180 degrees which basically means that if you are shooting 24 frames per second then you shoot at 1/48 of a second, 25 fps - 1/50 of a second, 30 fps - 1/60 of a second, 60 fps - 1/120 of a second etc.

I found this article at it explains shutter angles much better than I and also has other useful links.

The trick is how to shoot with a DSLR and keep your shutter speed constant! I have found that a Variable ND Filter is the best way to do this. I have a ND2 to ND400 Filter, you rotate it like a Polarising Filter which means once you have your Aperture and Shutter Speed set you rotate your Variable ND Filter until you achieve the exposure you want, simple!

Variable ND Filters are not expensive and are an indispensable piece of kit for the DSLR movies shooter!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Setting up your DSLR for Shooting Movies

Setting up your DSLR for shooting movies is important as the default settings in your DSLR are set more for Photos than for movies. Instead of explaining the details here, I'll let Philip Bloom and Andrea Allen explain it in this excellent little video from

Monday, 24 September 2012

Crazy In Love

I finished the "Crazy In Love" video! It has taken me on a journey of discovery that surprised me, not only did I learn a lot of technical stuff but I also learnt a lot about myself in the process.

I didn't find this an easy video to edit, I had to drag myself to the computer to do any work and it seemed the project was creeping into mediocrity.

It came down to a lack of communication between Katherine and myself, I found I was working in a vacuum and had no idea of the direction I should be heading. The first edit was very drab, it limped along like a wounded slug!

I had spent weeks playing with it and I was ready to give up, until Katherine and I sat down and worked through a load of stuff that was getting in the way. It wasn't easy but it cleared a path back to the video and how to proceed. With renewed enthusiasm I went out and shot some texture to link to two elements (studio and exterior) together which made a hugh difference to the feel of the video.
We wanted the studio and exterior elements to have a difference which was done in the colour grading, the studio has a very dark vignette (maybe a little dark) and an almost desaturated pastel look.
The 2.35:1 widescreen mask was applied in the Final Cut Pro timeline but if I was to use this aspect ratio again I think I would just crop it in Compressor.

I'm really looking forward to working with Katherine again, our next project will be way different in that we will plan it better and I don't think it will be a love song.

I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear your feedback!

Never stop learning!

Friday, 7 September 2012

My Cameras

Be they ever so humble, these are my cameras. Kind of sad really when you look at what other people are using, but I'm really, really grateful to have them!!! I could easily have been a cameraman without a camera all.  


How I got my Sony HDR-FX1E. 

I was working as a Stone Mason on a large development just North of Christchurch, NZ. We were building a small bridge and we kept hearing reports of significant archaeological finds happening on the development. A team of archaeologists were working on the area in preparation for the development. I approached the developer and said that if he purchased a camera for me, I would archive the development and associated Archaeology. 
Stone Bridge We Built

He agreed and over they next few years I Payed the camera off and worked on site as a Stone Mason as well as Videographer! It didn't take long to figure out that this HDV, mini DV camera wasn't the ideal camera for me. It was great for the archiving but because it only shot interlaced footage, onto tape, I had to de-interlace everything I edited for the net. When I got this camera I didn't even know the difference between interlaced and progressive video, I couldn't figure out why I was getting artifacts when I uploaded videos to YouTube. It took me a very long time to figure out a good way of de-interlacing and I'm still not sure if it's the best way! The thing is, you loose a lot of quality when you de-interlace video. 
I made a few promotional videos for the Pegasus Town development, this gave me a chance to brush up on my shooting and editing skills. You can see most of these videos on my YouTube Channel.

Canon 550D
I really wanted a camera that shot progressive footage but I didn't have a lot of money, I heard that the Canon 550D or Rebel T2i had good video capability. I read all the reviews about the Canon and went ahead and purchased one. It's a great little camera and it does shoot good quality video but it's not a video camera. To operate a DSLR camera like this you need a rig or at least an LCDVF, a view finder that allows you to view the LCD screen on the camera with an eyepiece. I also found that having a small battery powered monitor was very handy.

The only problem I have with this camera is when I put it on my slider the footage is very choppy, it kind of steps instead of being smooth. I have seen loads of videos with this model of camera on sliders and it looks great, but not mine. I sent the camera back to Canon but they say it's working correctly within the parameters of the camera, so I'm stuck with it! If anyone has a solution to this problem I would like to hear from you! In fairness Canon did say it was a stills camera and I shouldn't expect it to work like a video camera, point taken!
I have yet to complete a project on the Canon but I have shot a load of footage with it and I'm looking forward to making something cool with it!

More Stone Work
I like to think that it's not having the best equipment that makes the best videos but it would be really nice. Maybe one day soon!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

E-Star TV and what we're about!!!

Starting From Scratch

My name is John Barrow and I am very lucky to have had 20 good years as a television cameraman in New Zealand, I didn't take it very seriously but I did have a bit of natural ability which got me through. I was always an intuitive shooter and I didn't know much about the technical side of things. I would pick up a camera, set up the viewfinder, colour balance and shoot! 
Me with a Sony Betacam
Hard at work!
Production Meeting in Queenstown.
Sound Op Barry, Presenter Peta and me

I was well suited for quick turnaround documentary work and as a freelancer I had a good client base of magazine style shows. Shows like Taste New Zealand with Peta Mathias were an absolute blast. Great people, great food, great locations, what more could you ask for!
Interview Setup

We would travel around sampling the best food and wine this country had to offer. Another client was a garden show and we did the same thing, travel around shooting some of the best gardens in the country.

These two photos are from a book Peta Mathias wrote called Don't get Saucy with me, Bearnaise

I walked away from television about 12 years ago and became a stonemason. About four years ago I seized an opportunity to archive some archaeology that was being done on a large development I was doing some stonework on. I purchased a Sony HDV camera, an imac and editing software and away I went!

I have no ambition to get back into mainstream television but would still like to make use of the skills I've learnt over the years.  I thought it would be fun to make music videos for start up artists that don't have the funds to make videos with the major production houses, it's a bit slow getting going but I'm not in any real hurry. I also want to find people that are doing extraordinary things with their lives and showcase them in some way, from experience I have learnt that these people can be living next door and you may never know!

I needed a website but didn't have the money to get one so my 12 year old son and I have been busy making a website that would do what we wanted which included a shopping cart to sell video clips online. It has been a bit of a mission so far and we've only just begun, there is so much to learn and do!

I will be detailing our journey in this blog so I really hope you will follow along, offer advice and maybe learn something. Having your support and encouragement will make all the difference to us!

Have a look at our site: E-Star TV

Thanks for listening!

Please Like our FaceBook Page: EstarTelevision 
Follow me on twitter: @estarnz

Monday, 20 August 2012

Music Video

Crazy In Love With you

I'm making a music video for Kate, a local singer/songwriter. The song, "Crazy In Love With You" is a love song written by Kate and performed by Kate and partner Dean. Dean also mixed and mastered the song in a studio at their home.

Dean in his cave
The video features Kate singing and playing her baby grand piano with shots of a young couple scattered through it.

The day of the exterior shoot with the young lovers was perfect, a very moody North-Westerly, not too cold which was very lucky as it's the middle of winter. We struck the light at just the right time and was able to complete the exterior shots in just a couple of hours.
Kate getting Make Up
The room I shot kate in was very small, as you can see in the photo below, and we didn't have a proper lighting kit and the sun was coming and going which also made things interesting! When you're working with a very small budget you have to go with what you are given and the end result is all that matters!

We shot several takes of the complete song from different angles, I then sync the audio from the camera mic with pips that have been recorded at the start of the master track. I lay all the tracks onto a timeline and take out the shots I don't want.


I'll post the video when I have completed the editing.

I made the Jonny Mac video in the same way, check it out:

Till Part Do Us Death by Jonny Mac from E-Star TV on Vimeo.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Missing Texts on Android Smart Phone

I just got an Android smart phone for my son as we needed to upgrade from the old CDMA network to Telecom XT network in New Zealand. We noticed he wasn't getting all of his texts, some would get through but most wouldn't. We tried unmounting the SD card and all the missing texts came flooding in, we thought we had fixed the problem but it hadn't, for some reason this solution never worked again!

We finally got onto a decent customer service person at telecom who put us onto a technician who knew what he was doing. The problem was a corrupt text blocking all the other texts, these corrupt texts can only be removed by a technician at their end, the corrupt text was removed and all the unsent texts came flooding into the phone. Problem solved? No!!!

The next day we were having the same problem, we got back in touch with telecom and this time we found out there was another corrupt text blocking the other texts. The difference this time was we were asked if the number 800 00 00 had any meaning to us which it didn't. The issue was sorted and the corrupt text was removed and we were informed that the corrupt texts were coming from telecom. If I understood correctly, and I may not have, the problem was the old network was sending texts that were not compatible with the new network.

Good one Telecom!!!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Codecs and Formats

As a cameraman my only concern was to point and shoot. I had no interest in anything other than putting a tape in my camera and getting the sweetest shots I could get. This was in the old days when we used tape but about 4 years ago I got a HDV camera (still tape) and a imac for editing and I entered a head spinning world of codecs, containers and formats, 4 years on I'm still confused but the confusion is slightly less intense.

I have discovered that Codec stands for compressor/decompressor or code/decode, they are programs that shrink large movie files and makes them playable on your media player. They are designed to speed up the transmission time on the internet then decode the data for viewing or editing. There are hundreds of codecs being used and this leads to a lot of confusion. Some of the more common codecs are:

  • FFmpeg includes formats like MPEG2, the format DVD's use and MPEG4, the format used in the iTunes Store.
  • DivX, which works with a type of MPEG4 file.
  • Xvid, an open source version of DivX.
  • x264, compresses H.264 videos popular with HD also known as MPEG4 AVC.
The different versions of the Moving Picture Experts Group or MPEG standards makes it very confusing.

Containers are just that, they contain the video and audio codecs as well as other things like subtitles. This gives you a bit more control, you can compress your audio into an MP3 format for a smaller file or have them uncompressed. Some common containers are:

  • AVI
  • MP4 and M4V used by apple in iTunes, both containers are the same.
  • MOV created by apple
  • MKV the extension for Matroska
Different containers not only support different codecs but support different features like chapters and subtitles.
This is why sometimes you can have a familiar container but the file won't play because the codec used may not be supported by your player. Some media players like VLC Media Player play almost everything without the need to download codec packs.

Which to use?
These days the DivX and Xvid are popular with standard definition videos but are mostly out dated. H.264 is becoming popular and gives very good quality whereas MPEG4 will compress faster but you do sacrifice quality. I tend to use Quicktime (MOV), as I use Final Cut Pro for editing, or MPEG4 both support high quality H.264 as does Matroska but MKV is not well supported by playback devices but it does support virtually all video and audio formats.

Reference material can be found at wikipedia:

Comparison of video codecs
Comparison of container formats

I don't claim to be an expert so if you have better information please let me know.

If you are looking for a good free video converter I can recommend MPEG STREAMCLIP for mac and PC.

Have Fun!!!!!